Modeled on recent Eastern European and South American novels, this rueful political satire is set in Portugal during the bizarre last days of dictator Antonio Salazar. Although Salazar has been disabled by a stroke, the illusion of his power is maintained because no one has the courage to tell him that a new government has been formed. Entering this preposterous charade is Carlos, a poet once jailed by Salazar's secret police and now under house arrest at the palace, where he delivers phony news broadcasts to the dictator's bedside radio. Slavitt scrupulously controls tone and point of view, providing a virtuoso example of how to dramatize unpromising material. Depicting a world where reality and illusion are often one, this novel offers trenchant commentary on the political horror of our century. Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.